Poetry that sifts the possibilities of an American ethos and probes for a usable truth.
The energy in Crush Test derives form the tension between the received/imposed social order and the longings of the creative mind. At the bottom of these collected poems is the universal message to rail against the constructed oppressions we are born into amid the particular problems of contemporary life, the wonderful subversion of seeing the world in a new way with new possibilities and singing it in verse.
With musicality of phrase and line, with experimental poems blended among traditional forms and meters, these works gaze into the bawdy and the beatific. Outraged love is the lens that skews them. Here, a ghazal speaks to a child who doesn't want heaven. A meditation on cancer considers the failure of civil life. A hero's journey defeats a host of gadgetry and cyber society to redeem his soul. These poems are torn between loving the world and the violence of the beloved. They are heartbroken at foolishness and at their own complicity.
Through an often surreal sequence of dream and memory, Crush Test sifts the possibilities of an American ethos and probes for a usable truth, even a usable sense of God, beyond both tradition and the individual's narrow horizon. There is a hopeful fatalism here, that the inevitable may yet yield something of value, that poetry might make something happen after all.
Dennis Doherty teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. He is the author of two previous poetry collections, The Bad Man and Fugitive.